Monday, December 13, 2010

[ctd] New Systems

Well, I haven't posted about curse the darkness in a while, but I've been working on it. Some changes I'm making, with input from Sarah, Matt and Michelle:

  • Streamline the Removal Challenge system. This is something that the playtesters have consistently not been real thrilled about (one of the playtesters mentioned it was like playing an RPG and then a bridge game breaks out).
  • Add a story creation element. I admit to being influenced by Ganakagok here, but also games like Don't Rest Your Head, Misspent Youth, My Life With Master and many other indie games that eschew "GM does lots of prep" for "quick improvisation by entire group."
  • A way to make the whole group invested in the immediacy of the scenario. curse the darkness was never supposed to be about saving the world. It's about what's happening right now. That's why mortality needs to be high, and that's why I focus so much on Memory and not as much on, say, long character arc.

So, with all that mind, here are the changes I'm making (some have been playtested, some haven't):

Character Challenges: Instead of discarding a card when you go through a Character Challenge, you put it into the bank. Your "bank" holds three cards, and you cannot be involved in a Removal Challenge until it's full. Your bank cannot hold more than three cards, but you pick which ones. Example: I have 3H, 2S and 8S in my bank. Multiple suits are nice, because they help in Removal Challenges (see below), so when I play my next card (7S), I can choose to replace the 3H, or keep that, for whatever reason, and replace either of the other spaces.

Removal Challenges: So, instead of gathering up all your cards, you just use your bank and your Active cards. You don't pick anything up. The system otherwise works much the same, and so the "bridge" problem might remain, but in playtest we found that if you're playing cards that you have face-up as the Removal Challenge begins it doesn't disrupt things nearly as much.

So let's say I've got the bank above (3H, 2S, 8S) and my Active Cards are 7S, 9H, KC, and 10D. We start a Removal Challenge. I have those seven cards to play to Suit Assignment. I play my KC, 8S, 10D and 9H, since I don't have much in the way of high cards and I'm hoping the GM gets shafted on his draws.

The GM plays 10S, 2H, JC and 10D. We tie on diamonds, GM wins on spades and I win on hearts and clubs. I used three of my Active Cards, so I turn over new ones: 4C, JD and 7H. I now have those three, 7S, 3H and 2S to use in Condition Assignment.

I go first because my king of clubs is high. I only have one club left in my Active Cards and none left in my bank, so I assign clubs as Succeed/Leave. The next high card is the GM's 10 of spades. I have a bunch of spades, so naturally the GM calls spades as Fail/Leave. My nine of hearts is next, and I call it Succeed/Remain. That leaves diamonds (left till last because we tied) for Fail/Remain.

The GM grabs the aces from the Players' Decks (just four, though I've found that eight works better for Removal Challenges with more than three people). I contribute two cards from any cards I control - bank or Active. Duh. I put in the 2H from my bank and the 7H from my Active Cards. The GM can spend Between points to add more cards (from my bank, discard piles, but not my Active Cards) and I can spend Memory to remove them. And then I draw and see what happens.

Passing the GM's Hat: And here was the other idea we had and liked, though we haven't playtested it: If you leave play during a Removal Challenge, you become the GM. The former GM takes a character card (and should make a character, at least the numbers, at the beginning of play), writes the character into Memory, and joins at the next opportunity.

Yes, that might seem like a big jump, but here's the thing: GMing curse the darkness is mostly about narration and difficulty adjudication, and I'm going to include charts for the latter. The former, well, everyone, including all the players, will know at the outset what the stakes and goals are for that session (or story). How? Read on.

Story Creation: At the beginning of play, you draw four cards. The first one indicates what He wants and on what scale. So the suit indicates what the target is (same ideas as the attributes; Focus, Humanity, Stamina, Stability) and the number indicates the scale: Ace is one person, all the way up to a whole city. (I have charts for all of this, which I'm not going to reproduce here, though I'll be happy to post an example.)

Next card is the Between Card, and that indicates how many Between Points the GM starts with and how many are necessary to get His attention. What this means, basically, is how important this mission is to Him - the higher the number, the more points are necessary (and thus the less important this is to Him - or maybe it means that characters are better hidden? That's for the group to interpret).

Third card is the Situation Card, which is basically "where are we when this all starts?" Suit breaks down like it does for Scenario, the number raises the tension of the situation. So the ace of spades is the end of a sprint to catch a target (physical in nature, but not a lot of Between-related danger) while the king of spades is an armed firefight between two factions (which adds a Between Point right off the bat, it's so risky).

Finally, the Complication card adds a wrinkle into things. Might be a natural disaster, a sugar crash, the sudden arrival of another group of rebels from the Between. The GM keeps it secret and the players can ask the GM to play it any time to reduce the number of Between Points in front of the GM. Or, the GM can cash in a black joker, if he has one, to introduce it (but more importantly, screw the players out of the chance to do so).

So! That's where we're at. Been trying to playtest this, but life, weather and illness haven't been cooperative. Next Monday, I hope. :)